The Sydney Metropolitan Fire Brigade was established in 1884 though the City of Sydney Fire Station didn’t open until 1887 when it became Station No 2. Station. No 1, and thus the brigade’s headquarters, opened in 1886 in the western suburb of Marrickville.
The City of Sydney station was designed, like many other civic buildings in the city, by Colonial Architect James Barnet though his plans were modified during construction, as funds were restricted. It (or rather the remaining original part of it) is a rare example of Victorian Free Classical Architecture and was modelled on London Metropolitan Fire Brigade stations of the day.
The original station, on the left in the picture above (courtesy of http://www.cassinhome.com/), had three fire engine bays. The horses used to pull the fire engines were housed in stables to the rear of the building. The station was extended through the conversion of the adjacent administrative building in 1912. By this time the fire engines were motorised and the horses were put out to pasture, as it were.
Calls for an enlarged station began in 1934 but this didn’t come to fruition until 1999 when a large glass faced extension was added. In 2003 the original station was refurbished.
Above the entrances to the original three bays are nicely moulded keystones, the central one bearing a portrait head of Queen Victoria, and the others models of firemen’s equipment.
Inside the original part of the station pressed metal ceilings are supported by decorated riveted plate iron beams. Around the walls, to just over a metre high, are glazed ceramic tiles (possibly produced in England by Minton) with decorative panels, some featuring fire fighting symbols. On the north wall there is a fine carved timber board honouring “New South Wales Fire Brigade Staff who served in the Great War 1914-1918”.
The extended station remains very much an operating fire station. Lest my reader wonder about the apparent age of what is now Fire and Rescue New South Wales equipment, based on that depicted in my internal station pictures, I should say that I visited the station on a special open day (part of the annual Sydney Open day, in 2015) when some old gear was put on display for the day.
Ordinarily, these bays house state of the art fire fighting equipment and the brigade is not amenable to members of the public wandering through admiring the tiles, etc, pretty though they are. That said, if you are passing, the station doors are often open and some of the things referred to above can be admired from the street, especially if the fire engines are out on duty. Be careful not interfere with, or obstruct, the work of the fire service. You never know your luck, if the firies (firemen), see you lurking around and they are not too busy they may invite you in for a look. They are a friendly bunch here.
Address: 211-217 Castlereagh St, Sydney